When I gaze out of the window I see the blue skies with the sun shining, interrupted occasionally by the drifting clouds. I see large evergreen trees at a distance, dancing with the wind. I see bluebells, daffodils, and roses rooted in the black soil, surrounding the green shiny grass. I see pigeons, robins, and sparrows gliding high and low, searching for worms. I see the bees buzzing about the flowers and the army of ants crawling up the bark. I see a plethora of colours. I see movement. Out of the window, I see a continually changing and delightfully diverse play.
What is That which enables this play?
It is the inherent unity of the universal order that enables this play. In Sangh, we believe in focusing on the sunshine not the drifting dark clouds. Not the negative agenda nor the detractors who chose to scare, emotionally silence or create divisions. HSS (UK) is proud of the courage of all our swayamsevaks and sevikas who in the face of dark clouds continue to focus on uniting and uplifting people all over UK. In Sangh we choose to connect for a more sustainable peaceful world.
Ordinarily in life, we see the separateness of black and white, up and down, believer and non-believer, left and right. From an analytical perspective, this all makes sense, for it helps us understand the world by abstracting away from reality and boxing it so that our minds will understand. One may even argue that language not only perpetuates this separateness, but even initiates it. Such is the play of words!
But perhaps the biggest hallucination in life is that we see ourselves as separate egos confined within a bag of skin. The ‘I’, though used only as a noun in a sentence, it starts to appear as real; so real that it guides every aspect of our lives. It is this ‘I’ – a sense of separateness that at once has led to the most remarkable feats of human endeavour, as well as the most atrocious acts of violence.
This feeling of ‘I’ is so strong that religions, ideologies and even science have been influenced by it. It is precisely here that Hindu sages and philosophers have seen things differently. Where the whole world saw separateness as a fundamental reality – either through religious belief (e.g. the separateness of God and man, believers and non-believers or heaven and hell), political ideology (e.g. left vs right wing) or scientific method (e.g. reductionism) – we, the Hindu civilisation, saw the inherent unity and interconnectedness of life. We proclaimed “Tat Tvam Asi” – Thou Art That – to boldly declare that You are not just You. You are You+Everything else. You go with everything you call the external world. This is Yog. This is the fundamental basis of Dharma. It is this lofty ideal which, in Sangh, we have managed to turn it into a living reality.
This feeling of connectedness between ‘You and Other’ is what we call Sangh. Sangh literally means ‘to connect’. It does not merely refer to an institutional setting. Nor do we mean connectivity through modern communications and technology. No. Every day, our purpose is to connect people at a deeper level. This is our focus.
To delve deeper, we may bifurcate this ethos of connectedness into two parts:
- Sangh with Self
- Sangh with Others
“Sangh with Self” means to connect with who we are. Everyday, we humans live with the anxieties of the future and the regrets of the past. We try to look good and showcase identity at the cost of understanding it. We build personas, that we take seriously, but forget they are just masks. We, as humans, are consumed by the shadow of the ‘I’ which then directs our life. When human life is trained to see pass the individual ‘I’, a new world opens up for us. By cultivating practices that enable ‘Samskārs‘ – constructive habits – we are able to see past our own limitations. It is said in the Ramcharitmānas, that when Hanuman overcame his own shadow whilst crossing the ocean, ‘a cow’s footprint expanded to the size of the ocean, enemies became friends, poison became nectar and the great Mount Meru shrunk like a grain of sand’. Sages , ancient and modern, eastern and western, have provided innumerable methods and disciplines to train our minds to see beyond the ‘I’.
An example of this is emulated in the game of Kabaddi, which breaks down the psychological barriers of ‘this is my space’ and ‘that is your space’. In fact, when we go for the tackle, the feeling of distinctiveness between the tackler, the tackling and the one being tackled, dissolve. They all become one. This same feeling of simultaneous oneness/difference transpires into our work.
Connectedness does not mean some fixed uniformity, nor a monotonous groupthink – these are reserved for those that do not see unity in diversity. We are all free to roam the playground as autonomous beings. Sangh simply reminds us that at a deeper level, we are connected.
“Sangh with Others” refers to our connection with the world. Specifically, it is how we engage with the world through our work – Karya. We may talk about selfless service or volunteering but these words are redundant when we say ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – that the whole world is one family. The word ‘Charity’ comes from Old English and in turn Latin, to mean ‘A Christian love of one’s fellows’. Though the word has evolved to become much wider, a remnant of it still persists. For one, charity in this day and age has become a trend, a marketable activity to fuel fundraising and status. In the Hindu philosophy, Karya or Sewa is not the act of one person giving to another person. It is about two people coming together and enabling a more enriching state of living. When people connect at deeper levels, thinking beyond their own identities, and work towards a better future, we call this ‘Sangh with Others’.
Where Sangh, translated as ‘connection’ becomes the purpose – with the Self or with Others – an enabling methodology must also be present. Both purpose and methodology come together.
In Sangh, our most basic methodology for building connection is through a structured and regular activity that we called Shakha. Humans need a certain level of structure in their lives. Shakha is the regular discipline of activating physical, intellectual, social and spiritual energy on a regular basis. Fundamentally the purpose for is to motivate our swayamsevaks and sevikas to move beyond the ‘I’ and work in the society we live in – so it is not about improving lives just for those who participate in shakha or simply those that look and think like us and it is certainly not about a group that must believe in the same God or geographical region as ‘I’.
Deendayal Upadhyaya, an eminent philosopher who dedicated his life to Sangh in its widest sense once said:
“Hegel put forward the principles of thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis; Karl Marx used this principle as a basis and presented his analysis of history and economics; Darwin considered the principle of survival of the fittest as the sole basis of life; but we in this country (India) saw the basic unity of all life.”